By "lead designer" I mean a person who oversaw the preliminary design phase for a manned spacecraft, being intimately involved in and ultimately responsible for crucial design choices and compromises. It is a shame that we know the names of space entrepreneurs and CEOs making financial decisions but often fail to honor the memory of the engineers who did the actual work.

Please note that I intend to make full use of recent changes in the "Community Wiki" rules. In case you haven't noted, you can edit your answers an unlimited number of times, all the votes accruing to your reputation.

Please also note that unless there's a verifiable tie, I will not upvote later answers copying names from other posts.

For your convenience, here is the list of manned spacecraft (different generations of the same spacecraft count, but I'm not listing all the Soyuz versions here, for instance):

  • Vostok
  • Mercury
  • Gemini
  • Voskhod
  • Apollo CSM
  • Apollo LM
  • Soyuz
  • STS (the Space Shuttle)
  • TKS
  • Buran
  • Shenzhou (921)


  • DOS/Salyut
  • Skylab
  • Almaz/Salyut
  • Mir
  • ISS (as well as its nodes)
    • Zarya
    • Zvezda
    • Unity
    • Destiny
    • Harmony
    • Tranquility
    • Kibo
    • Columbus
    • Rassvet
    • Leonardo
    • Pirs
    • Poisk
    • Cupola
  • Tiangong-1

Designer names for proposed / developmental manned spacecraft are welcome.

  • $\begingroup$ Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev would seem to account for many of the American and Soviet spacecraft on that list. $\endgroup$
    – Anthony X
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Really? Von Braun mostly designed launchers, it seems. Korolev was kind of a CEO, with a lot of teams under him. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ Instead of the ISS, I'd better see separate Boeing built Nodes, Italian built MPLM derivative modules, Japanese, Russian etc on this list. $\endgroup$
    – user54
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 2:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is not a good question. Simple vehicles? Yes, they can have a single person responsible for the design. Complex vehicles, which is everything since Gemini? Singling out a single person as responsible for the design is irresponsible. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2014 at 23:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen - complexity is reducible through hierarchy of engineers. There should be a person with enough acumen and knowledge to decisively influence the overall picture, otherwise all complex endeavors are doomed to devolve into an Oriental bazaar. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2014 at 23:46

4 Answers 4


This answer is about OKB-1 (later known as TsKBEM, then NPO Energia, today known as RSC Energia) spacecrafts. I plan to edit, to make it more exact and detailed.

Vostok and Voskhod. (3K)

The chief conceptual designer was Konstantin Feoktistov. The administrative chain of all the people "responsible for the design" looked like that:

  • Korolev (OKB-1. Chief designer)

Source, for example: Chertok "Rockets and People", volume 3

Soyuz (7K)

One needs to understand, that the initial designs were the ones of the soviet lunar programs. Including such complexes as Soyuz A-B-V, for example. And N1-L3, where L3 = 7K-LOK + LK. 7K-LOK is a kind of Soyuz with the familiar Landing and Orbital modules, but a larger Service Module. LOK

The family included such spacecrafts as Soyuz 7K-L1 which were sent to fly around the moon under the names of Zond-5,6,7,8. Zond-5

The only structural part all those Soyuz variants have in common is, probably, the landing module. The design works, including the search for the optimal shape, landing schemes, of the Landing Module were headed by Vladimir Timchenko

  • Korolev (OKB-1. Chief designer)
    • K. Bushuev (Deputy Chief Designer)
      • Vladimir Roschin (Head of "Department 11 of Gas Dynamics")

After the concept of the landing module was ready, there was a joint team of Departments 9 and 11 headed by Feoktistov to work out the designs of 7K (i.e. Soyuz).

Good source is the following writeup: Memories of the Soyuz lander module creation (in Russian).

Salyut and Soyuz-T (DOS-7K)

Salyut re-used Almaz hull design, fitted with Soyuz guidance and control systems. Soyuz-T is a member of Soyuz family adapted to be a ferry serving the station.

The proposal came from a team of TsKBEM engineers (Bushuev, Ohapkin, Chertok, Kryukov, Feoktistov, Raushenbach).

  • V. Mishin (Designer General, TsKBEM Head of Enterprise)
    • K. Bushuev (Chief Designer, general manager of DOS-7K)
      • Yuri Semenov (Lead Designer of DOS-7K complex)
      • K. Feoktistov (Deputy Chief Designer, deputy general manager of DOS-7K)
        • Leonid Gorshkov (designer of DOS orbital block)
        • P.Tsybin (manager of 7K-T)
          • Dmitry Slesarev (Deputy Lead Designer responsible for 7K-T)

Sources of information:

Mir core module (DOS-7) and Zvezda ISS Service Module (DOS-8)

The same RSC Energia '46-49 gives the list of conceptual designers of Mir station, it doesn't go into finer details.

  • V. Glushko (Designer General, NPO Energia)
    • K.Feoktistov (Deputy Designer General)
      • L. Gorshkov (head of department)
        • E. Demchenko, A. Nesterenko, M.M.Lemelev, V. Tokarev, F.Arkov, N. Beresnev, V. Bobkov, N. Brukhanov, A. Kochkin and others.

The role of Konstantin Feoktistov

One could note that the only name really belonging to all of the above lists is Konstantin Feoktistov. He has participated in the Sputnik designs. And retired from RSC Energia in 1990, 4 years after Mir launch. In different roles he was creating them all. I am surprised his memoir book is not present on Amazon in English translation.


Max Faget was involved in the design of every US manned spacecraft flown to date. Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle. It looks like Elon Musk will end Max's monopoly.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Faget did the design from the NASA side; there were also contractors. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2014 at 17:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Max Faget certainly was the designer of Mercury, but he only contributed to the design of Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle. As far as the Shuttle is concerned, the best description is that it was designed by committee. Multiple committees. There is no single person who can be pinned with thanks (or with blame). $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2014 at 23:32


The following is the relevant administrative chain of Buran proper, not the whole Energia-Buran complex. The whole complex as well as Energia rocket herself were designed mostly in NPO Energia.

Some sources claim, that the essential part of the conceptual design works were done by Lozino-Lozinsky himself. However strange that may sound.

The information is rather sparse, though, so probably the real key people are somewhere down the administrative chain.

There are lists of all the people responsible for Buran airframe though, such as at the bottom of this page. So the right person is definitely there.

Sources: buran.ru mostly.


This answer is about spacecrafts designed in OKB-52, later known as TsKBM, then as NPO Mashinostroeniya.

Almaz (OPS), TKS and VA.

Blagov designed re-entry capsules (VAs) initially for LK-1 project, then for Almaz and TKS.

The design of TKS should have been conducted by someone in Fili branch of TsKBM (later known as KB Salyut, today part of Khrunichev).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.